Pomodoro al Forno. Roasted tomatoes. Unbelievably simple. Unbelievably good. I don’t know about where you are, but here in Colorado we don’t have much in the way of locally grown anything right now. In fact, the term locally grown won’t be applicable for several months. Sigh. My available options are the supermarket or small specialty grocery stores, and it’s a toss-up which is better. Small store has prettier displays and produce that’s shined and placed just so, but is it better than what you get in the supermarket? Maybe marginally. It’s this time of year that I start to miss the Farmer’s Market, and with each passing week my longing will grown until I’m counting the weekends until it will open. Even tho’ I know they won’t have much produce out, and it’s too early for the local signs to come up, the sight of the booths and tents will calm me. Until then, I use an organic fruit and produce vendor that delivers each week right to your door. It’s a pretty cool concept, and it keeps you cooking and eating your fruits and veggies ’cause they’re right there in front of you. Imported from all over, my veggies certainly weren’t picked 20 miles away, but it’s easy and priced reasonably. Each week you have a selection of what they have available, and it can be fun. Kind of like the mystery box. This is what you get, now, what are you going to make. Which brings me back to tomatoes. You thought I’d never get there, didn’t you?
As far as I’m concerned, there is no tomato offered for sale near me in the winter months that tastes like anything remotely resembling summer tomatoes. I’m constantly disappointed with them. And except for some imported grape tomatoes I rarely buy any. But there they were. Sitting on the first layer of my bitty box (isn’t that cute, that’s what they call the smallest box you can order from them, the bitty box) 6 Roma tomatoes. Just looking at them, I knew they weren’t going to have any flavor, but whatever, they went into the bowl on the counter. For several days I looked at them, they seemed to be ripening a bit, but that wasn’t going to save them. I just kept looking at them while I prepared other things. A few days later, I noticed the first little puckering signs that it was use them or lose them time. What to do. What to do. What to do…… Cut to giant Homer Simpson face and cartoon “Doh” appearing over my head. How could I have been so clueless? The best thing to do, I think, the only thing to do is make Pomodoro al Forno. Pomodoro al Forno is happy dance worthy. The list of things you can do with them is lo o o n n g g. Very long. Actually, it’s more like what can’t you do with them. And effort? Practically zip. Here’s how you do it.
Set your oven to 275. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut each tomato in half, lengthwise, and remove core and seeds. (I just scrape it out with a spoon.) Place each tomato, cut side up on baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Put them in the oven, and roast them for 2 to 3 hours.
Until they look like this:
What you have there is a wrinkly little bit of pure tomato goodness. I know, most of the time, if you use an ingredient that doesn’t taste good, what you end up with is something that doesn’t taste good. Except for here. You put in not so flavorful, a bit insipid tomatoes, and what you get back is deeply flavored, complex and rich. This slow roasting takes that little bit of taste and turns it into something you’ll be putting on or in everything. I’m telling you, these babies are happy dance worthy! I slice them and throw them into pasta, I smush them up and use the paste on sandwiches, I smear goat cheese on crostini and lay these on top. You can stuff chicken with them, add them to other roasted veggies, dice them with olives and capers for a fresh winter tapenade. You can and should just put them in your mouth and eat them.
I know you know about these. I wanted to make sure that unlike me, you don’t forget about them.
Note: I turn these over when they’re finished baking and remove the skin. I’m not a fan of tomato skin. But as not everyone shares my dislike of it, I didn’t put it in the directions. The skin just peels off easily. Also these keep in the refrigerator as is for at least a week.